Chapter 370 - Getting Face

“When this little friend found out that today was the birthday banquet, she personally made some roasted chicken and ducks for us. I also heard that she also prepared a lot of beautiful longevity peach cakes to finish the meal as a sweet.”

As he was talking, the head steward led a bunch of servants out who were all carrying roasted duck and roasted chicken. The dense fragrance of the meats immediately enveloped the whole banquet area. Yu Xiaocao deliberately made a bit more than was needed, so every table was graced with a duck and chicken with some extra roasted fowl left over!

It was obvious that the roasted ducks and chickens had just come out of the oven. Puffs of hot steam billowed out of the roasts. Roasted duck that had just come out of the oven had thin, crispy skin and tender meat, so it had a very good mouthfeel! Roasted chicken had tender skin, flavorful meat, and even its bones were soft. A single bite melted in people’s mouths and conquered their taste buds. No matter whether it was the guests at the men’s tables or women’s, all of them started out their meals with these two roast fowl.

After they finished eating most of the meal, the head steward came out again with servants who were holding the longevity peach cakes. The cakes were vivid and lifelike, resembling real peaches. Furthermore, the coloring on the cakes was very attractive to the eye. Yingtao also came out, wearing her new set of pink clothing, and gracefully stopped in front of the prefectural magistrate’s wife. She revealed a beautiful smile and crisply said, “When our young miss found out that it was your birthday, she personally made these longevity peach cakes for you. We hope that the madam will have a fruitful and enjoyable life and be blessed with many more years to come!”

“Oh ho, which family is this maid from? She looks quite smart and lively ah! How come I feel like this maid seems very familiar to me?” The prefectural magistrate’s wife was very happy and complimented Yingtao a few times. Earlier, the roasted ducks and roasted chickens gave her quite a bit of prestige and face in front of her close friends and acquaintances. These lively longevity peach cakes also added quite a bit to her birthday banquet.

Yingtao smiled appropriately and stated, “Thank you for your kind compliments. This servant is a maid from Zhaoyang General’s Estate. I am currently serving under the young miss!”  

The daughter of Zhaoyang General? The adopted daughter of General Fang? The prefectural magistrate’s wife was suddenly enlightened. She had also been invited to the celebration of General Fang’s heir’s first birthday. During the banquet, the most memorable thing was the last dessert: a cake that was as tall as a person and had many layers. Not only did the cake look beautiful and delicate, but it also tasted delicious. None of the famous dessert shops or pastry shops in the capital were able to create such a fantastical dessert.

Unfortunately, there were a lot of guests and not enough cake. Every person only got a tiny piece. The prefectural magistrate’s wife didn’t even get to taste a few bites before she had finished her slice. It was said that the cake was personally made by General Fang’s adopted daughter. When the chef from the most famous bakery in the capital, Daohua Village’s Pastry Shop, heard about the whipped cream cake, he personally came over to the general’s estate to ask to see General Fang’s adopted daughter. Unfortunately, the lass had already left the capital and couldn’t be found! 

Everyone in the capital knew about Daohua Village’s Pastry Shop. It was a popular bakery with a very good reputation. Rumors said that the head pastry chef was the descendant of an imperial pastry chef from the previous dynasty. When the current emperor was young, he liked to leave the imperial palace and go to Daohua Village’s Pastry Shop to buy pastries. Their pastries were so popular that the business at the shop was as busy as Zhenxiu Restaurant.

The head pastry chef at Daohua Village’s Pastry Shop had a rather weird personality. There were scores of high-ranking and wealthy families clamoring for him to make cakes for them. However, he only took the orders that interested him. If he wasn’t interested, it didn’t matter how much money the person threw at him, he wouldn’t even bat an eye. Furthermore, he had caught the emperor’s eye. Every month, Chief Steward Su personally left the imperial palace to pick up pastries for the emperor. Therefore, it didn’t matter how much power or money a person had in the capital; no one could force this chef to do anything!

Since even he personally went over to see the little lass who made the cake, it meant that General Fang’s adopted daughter truly had a special talent at crafting desserts.

The head maidservant, who was currently presenting these longevity peach cakes to everyone, had stated that she was the maid of General Fang’s adopted daughter. So didn’t that mean that these longevity peach cakes were made by someone more talented than the head pastry chef at Daohua Village’s Pastry Shop? The prefectural magistrate’s wife really looked forward to these cakes!

“Your young miss has worked hard and is very thoughtful. I will personally come over and thank her another day!” The prefectural magistrate's wife had one of her personal maid servants present a well-crafted silver bracelet to Yingtao. After Yingtao took it, she said a few more pleasantries and then left.

All of the longevity peach cakes had been served to every table at the banquet. The prefectural magistrate’s wife had the servants take out knives and carefully cut the cakes into small slices for each table. These slices were then served to all of the guests. On the inside, there were yellow peaches and red strawberries, which really made the cakes seem quite appealing. 

“It’s so delicious! I don’t think I’ve eaten anything more delicious in my entire life ah!” The daughter of the sub-prefect’s family had a pure personality. After tasting a bite, she couldn't help but proclaim her thoughts as she genuinely sighed over the cake. 

“The cake is tender and soft and melts in one’s mouth. The fruit filling is also colorful and delicious. Even the capital’s Daohua Village might not be able to create such beautiful and delicious cakes!” The wife of the local magistrate had grown up in the great tutor’s residence. Although she was only the daughter of a concubine, she had seen more things than most other women from other families. If she even stated this, it truly meant that these cakes were special beyond regard.

Hearing all of these noble madams and misses praising these cakes, the prefectural magistrate’s wife felt that this all reflected well on her. Who would have thought that her husband, who had thought he was only doing a favor for Royal Prince Yang, had actually ended up selling his residence to the adopted daughter of Zhaoyang General? The Yu’s Braised Food Store? Oh right! During the birthday celebration of General Fang’s son, Lady Fang had introduced her adopted daughter and said that her surname was Yu. How could she only think of this now?

The prefectural magistrate’s wife couldn’t help but share her experiences at Zhaoyong General’s son’s celebration. During that banquet, she was able to sample the birthday cake and the taste and beauty of the cake was exactly the same as these longevity peach cakes. The local magistrate’s wife also chimed in. She stated that General Fang’s adopted daughter not only knew how to craft fantastic cakes but she was also very proficient at medicine. When the empress’s little prince was ill, this girl was the one who cured him. The medicinal cuisine she concocted had also rejuvenated and healed Princess Consort Jing’s body…

The male guests were only separated from the female guests by a wooden screen. When they overheard the ‘gossip’ from the women’s side, all of them started thinking quickly. Someone who was able to catch the eye of the empress and Princess Consort Jing had to be extremely talented. They could only try to become friends and avoid offending her!

For the following days, Yu Xiaocao had started mysteriously receiving a bunch of calling cards and invitations. Other than the prefectural magistrate's wife, she didn’t know any of these people let alone be familiar with them. After having Yingtao and Yangliu handle a few of these, things got even more odd——why were all of these wives and daughters of officials, as well as wealthy merchant families, trying to make a connection with her? She was only the daughter of a farmer who had a good hand at cooking and baking.

As this continued to happen, Yu Xiaocao almost couldn’t take it anymore. Luckily, after Huang Dachui’s family started working for them, all of the work at the kitchen and storefronts had gradually decreased for the rest of the family. After practicing for a bit, Huang Xiaomei was also able to handle the work in the pickled vegetable store by herself. Thus, Yu Xiaocao took her two personal maids and went back to Dongshan Village. 

Ever since Yingtao purposely made things difficult that one time, Huang Xiaomei trained hard to become good at calculating sums in her head. Now, she almost never needed to use her abacus and she was still able to get to the total quickly. It was only when there were larger totals that she had to still use her abacus. Yingtao had observed her for a few days and discovered that Huang Xiaomei had gotten to the point where she never made mistakes.

Yingtao and Xiaomei’s relationship had started off rocky but they were now extremely good friends. Yingtao had noticed that Xiaomei didn’t have any other clothes other than the two sets that the young miss had bought her when she first started. Thus, she had given a few sets of her old clothing from last year that she had worn in the residence to the other girl.

Lady Fang was quite generous to the servants in the residence. Every season, she would give the maids and senior servants an additional two sets of clothing. For the personal maidservants, they received even more as they often appeared next to their masters and essentially represented their master’s status. The clothing that they received, from the type of cloth used to the patterns on the cloth, were all considered to be of decent quality that most people in the capital could use.

When Yingtao first arrived, Xiaomei had mistakenly thought that she was the young miss of a wealthy family in the prefectural city! Yingtao’s clothes from the previous year were all about eighty-percent new, so they still were very usable to give to someone. Xiaomei was very happy after receiving the clothes and repeatedly said that she had never worn such beautiful clothes in her entire life!

In order to hide from the misses and madams from the wealthy families, Yu Xiaocao went back to Dongshan Village. Without much warning, winter had begun.

In early winter, a large snow storm had covered the whole village and mountain. The older folks and young children, who had weaker bodies, all couldn’t handle the change in weather and had fallen ill. Thus, Yu Xiaocao became busy again.

Ever since Doctor You found his nephew, he only stayed at Dongshan Village for a short period of time before he decided to go back to his hometown. After saying his farewells to the villagers, he moved for good. As the ‘direct disciple’ of Doctor You, Yu Xiaocao had become the only person in the village who had any medical skills.

At this time, most of the villagers were not in good financial condition, especially right after the disaster year. Those who were only mildly ill didn’t bother to see the doctor and only endured until they got better. Those who couldn’t endure would borrow a ride on a cart to go to the medicine hall in town. Most people had forgotten that Yu Xiaocao had medicinal skills.

This year, the weather had changed abruptly and Old Yu had fallen victim to it. He got a headache, fever, and his whole body ached from head to toe. In addition, he acquired a cough and had become short of breath. At first, he only thought he had a cold and could get over it by drinking some ginger soup and sweating it out. Who would have thought that after two days had passed, he couldn’t get out of bed?

Yu Xiaocao took out some herbs from her medicine box that were used for treating colds and concocted them with some mystic-stone water. Then, she had her grandfather drink a few bowls of medicine. Very quickly, his condition got better. Before three days had passed, Old Yu was back to his old energetic self and was back at the foot of the mountain gathering firewood. Old Yu was someone who couldn’t stay idle. In fact, if you stopped him from working, he would start feeling bad. Winter had come and the weather had suddenly turned cold. There wasn’t enough firewood at home, so he went out every day with a basket on his back to pick up firewood at the foot of the West Mountain.

That night, Old Yu was taking his usual walk and had gone into his older brother’s residence. As soon as he entered, the strong smell of medicine hit his nose. After asking, he found out that his older brother, Yu Lichun, was also unable to escape from the sudden change in weather and had fallen ill, just like he did earlier. He had taken five days worth of medicine but still hadn’t gotten better.

Furthermore, Yu Jiang’s youngest daughter had also gotten a fever. She was a pitiful tiny girl that had to drink a few bowls of bitter medicine every day. She had cried until her throat had gone hoarse. Most of the time, even if they were able to force the medicine down her, the little lass would throw it all back up until her whole body was sticky. She seemed to be in a constant state of drowsiness and her periods of lucidity shortened. The doctor from the town had looked at her and shook his head and said that it didn’t look good.

After taking care of his father as well his daughter, Yu Jiang had markedly become thinner in the past week. This year he had earned quite a bit of money with his second brother, and he wasn’t greedy for money. When his father and youngest daughter had fallen ill, he had called a doctor from town over and spent over a few taels to buy medicine for them. However, neither of them had gotten better.  

Yu Jiang’s older sister had come over to see their father when she heard the news. After finding out their symptoms, tears streamed down her eyes. She stated that her village’s Old Han wasn’t as old as their father but had also gotten a high fever and couldn’t leave his bed. His family’s sons and daughters were all filial and had paid for a doctor and medicine. Despite spending quite a bit of money, he ended up dying in the end. Yu Jiang’s older sister couldn't help but cry when she saw how haggard her father’s face looked.

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Myst's Thoughts

Sanguine’s thoughts: I want some longevity peach cakes!!

Translator: Sanguine